Iraqi forces close in on Mosul's Old City historical mosque

(AhlulBayt News Agency) - Iraqi government forces, backed by allied fighters from Popular Mobilization Units, have gained more ground in a fresh offensive launched against Daesh terrorists in Mosul's Old City, trying to fully liberate the terror group's last bastion in the Arab country.

Lieutenant General Raed Shakir Jawdat, the commander of the federal police, announced that Iraqi forces had advanced at least 200 meters deeper into the Old City after they launched their operation on Sunday morning from Qadheeb al-Ban area in western Mosul.

"Federal police snipers stationed on the roofs of buildings and seized control of the perimeter around the al-Hadba minaret [of the historical Great Mosque of al-Nuri] and targeted the suspicious vehicles and armed persons," Iraq's Arabic-language al-Sumaria television network quoted Jawdat as saying.

The Sunday advance broke a month-old stalemate between the two sides as Daesh terrorists are holding out in the densely populated Old City, where army tanks and heavy vehicles are incapable of passing through its narrow and maze-like streets.

Mosul's al-Nuri mosque is highly symbolic because it was there that leader of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group, Ibrahim al-Samarrai, also known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared himself the so-called caliphate of the terror group, shortly after the flashpoint city fell to terrorists in June 2014 and became their de facto capital in the Arab country.

Jawdat further said advancing Iraqi forces must be particularly cautious since Daesh terrorists, riding explosive-laden motorbikes, try to target the soldiers' gatherings and convoys.

"We have to watch every single house to avoid attackers on motorcycles packed with explosives," he added.

Iraqi forces have made sweeping gains against Takfiri elements since launching the operation to retake Mosul last October.

The Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting, and launched the battle in the west on February 19.

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